The first 1,600 people lucky enough to snag a ticket to Magic Live 2018 will walk away with more than just amazing memories of a great time in Las Vegas, but a cool set of magic-themed stamps as well. (UPDATE: Attendees actually get a First Day of Issue official ceremony program, which comes with cover envelope and one of the cancelled stamps. If they want the full set, they’ll have to buy the remaining stamps and have them cancelled as part of the first day ceremony. We apologize for the error)
Created by Charleston-based graphic designer, Jay Fletcher, these official USPS stamps celebrate five of the most iconic branches of performance magic: Production, Transformation, Levitation, Prediction and Vanishing. Fletcher’s clear love for stark, geometric minimalism is prevalent, but there’s a hint of Art Deco luxury hidden in those sharp edges and smooth curves.
While the tricks depicted on the stamps are instantly recognizable, Fletcher struggled to convey the inherent “change” of a magic trick in one, static image. As he explained in an interview with Comm Arts:
As the process went on, we began to wonder if appealing to everybody, conveying the concepts in a digestible way and having the stamps immediately feel “magical” was too much to ask for. One of the most challenging aspects of the project was that most of the concepts were dependent upon the “before” and “after.” For example, it’s hard to depict something as having vanished without first showing it was there to begin with—almost like animation with a single frame.
If you were hoping to snag a late booking to Magic Live, you’re likely out of luck. The convention’s 1,600 spots sold out incredibly quickly, and while there’s still a waiting-list in case of cancellations, those tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. So good luck. Fortunately, if you’re just after the stamps, those will be released to the general public at a later date.
2018 isn’t even half over yet and here’s Magi-Fest coming up with even more reasons why you should register ASAP for the upcoming convention set to take place in Columbus, Ohio on January 17-19, 2019. Today, Magi-Fest announced the first three names slated to appear at the convention with performances and lectures.
First up, we have Yann Frisch, the 2012 FISM winner for close-up magic and creator of perhaps the greatest cup and ball routine ever devised. He’ll a part of the closing gala show, and will also present a brand new lecture.
Next, Nick Diffatte is the self-described “tannest magician” of Minnesota, and his comedy magic going to be part of the Friday Night Stage slot.
The last confirmation so far is a very special talk from Werner Reich, a 90 year old magician and Holocaust survivor, who discovered magic during his internment at Auschwitz.
Registration for the event is still available at the $150 early bird rate, but that price goes up to $200 after May 15, so if you’re interested in attending, head over to magifest.org to secure your spot. Magi-Fest has teased that the headliner and Guest of Honor are both going to be “big, big, big news”, and if these early reveals are any indication, Magi-Fest 2019 is going to be an event to remember.
If you want your magic convention experience to be a bit shorter and more intimate, you need to get your tickets for the Penguin Magic Experience and Expo (or MAXX) ASAP. The two-day event takes place on April 6-7 at the Doubletree Atlanta Airport Hotel in Atlanta, GA, and there are only about 100 tickets left for an event that is strictly limited to 300 people.
That level of intimacy ensures that everyone gets up-close and personal instruction from its variety of lecturers and performers. Michael Weber and Gazzo will kick off the convention on Friday evening, while Diamond Jim Tyler, Chad Long, and Dan Harlan will be giving full lectures on Saturday. And you’ll even get a chance to chat to chat with these magicians and many more special guests, as host Penguin Magic makes sure to mention that “hanging out is ON THE SCHEDULE” (emphasis theirs), in addition to the many mini-lectures on offer.
The full lineup of special guests includes:
Tickets are still available for $100 each at Penguin Magic, which includes admission to the Friday magic show, all of the lectures, access to the dealers hall, and a gift bag with $60 worth of goodies. Get in, learn a ton of new info, meets some great people, and head home before the weekend is over. Register now before they run out!
The New England Magic Collectors Association’s (NEMCA) bi-annual convention, The Yankee Gathering, is one of the last magic collectors’ meetups still around and it’s in a tight spot. Like Houdini, the community of magic collectors is in proverbial box filling up with water, but don’t be too alarmed; every good escape artist knows how to survive tough situations.
The Yankee Gathering, which has been held every other year since its inception in 1986, is an institution within the magic collecting community. Speaking to its program coordinator, Jim Zoldak, over Skype, he estimates that while it used to frequently meet its modern capacity of 200 people far in advance of the show, but in recent years it hasn’t always sold out.
One of the reasons magic collecting, as a hobby and community, is dying is because magic collectors themselves are dying. Zoldak reckons roughly a third of NEMCA’s original membership have gone on to what he calls “their magic collection in the sky.”
It’s a worrying thought for the gray-haired enthusiast, and it’s not a far-off fear. As unsettling as it is to imagine a future where nobody reveres the historical artifacts that launched this evocative form of showmanship, the most melancholy moments have already hit their apex, at least for Zoldak, as his close friend of over three decades and the primary founder of the Yankee Gathering, Ray Goulet, tragically passed away this last October at the valiant age of 87.
“I met Ray Goulet at his magic shop, and he opened my eyes to what magic collecting was all about,” Zoldak reminisces on how he made the acquaintance of his late friend back in the early 1980s in Watertown, Massachusetts. “I saw how much there was to possess and how much depth there was to magic collecting. The bug hit me and it hasn’t stopped. I’ve been collecting for 35 years.”
Hearing Zoldak describe his dear companion and mentor, it’s clear that Goulet’s natural charisma was one of the main draws of the convention. “His personality was such that he really drove it and everybody else just kind of helped him,” Zoldak laments. “It was his idea, his baby, and he always wanted to do everything first class. Both he and his wife Ann were so friendly and generous and outgoing, that it felt almost like a family reunion when you went to the gathering. They made it an intimate, and friendly, and familial environment for everybody. People came back just for that reason. Even if they didn’t collect magic, they liked being in that atmosphere.”
“One of the things that really sold people on the convention was that it felt like Ray was welcoming you into his house. He was there, he knew people by their name, he talked to everybody. Everybody knew Ray,” Zoldak says. “It was Ray’s convention in many respects. A lot of people played a key part in it, but he was the figurehead that everybody identified with.”
Hearing Zoldak talk about it, it’s easy to see why. The enthusiast describes early magic collectors’ conventions as a lot of “horse-trading”, i.e. bartering. This focus on acquisition was not the environment Goulet wanted to replicate. The Yankee Gathering, in its current form, incorporates lectures, performances, and exhibits as well as opportunities for collectors to acquire new additions to their collections.
While Goulet was a magic collector – so much so that he almost single-handedly founded a three-decade-and-counting convention – he had a very strong philosophy about how to amass a collection: you build it a piece at a time. “I swear at 87 he could still tell you where he bought each item, who it belonged to, how much he paid for it, and the history of that piece,” Zoldak states. In other words, he was staunchly opposed to simply buying someone else’s collection outright.
There was one time he went against this rule, however. In the late 80s, shortly after Zoldak and Goulet became friends, the younger man got a hot tip on an aging magic collector looking to unload his entire collection, which he kept in his barn in Georgia. Zoldak made the trip, took pictures of this guy’s collection, and wanted to buy it. The only problem was he didn’t have the capital to acquire it.
“I couldn’t afford it myself, so I went around and asked a couple of other people. And I talked to Ray, and he said that he doesn’t really buy collections, but based on what he saw he would go in on it with me. So we did,” Zoldak recalls.
“He went outside of his philosophy of never buying a collection to buying a collection with me. He trusted me, that I was going to follow through on this, and then having the adventure of sorting, packing, transporting and selling this stuff to other collectors was a pretty strong memory of Ray for me,” Zoldak recalls. “We didn’t really make money on it. We broke even at the end, or maybe made a couple hundred bucks out of like a $12,000 investment, but it was just kind of the adventure, the experience that made it worthwhile.”
But now Goulet is gone, and the buck has fallen to Zoldak and company at NEMCA to carry on Ray’s legacy. Those are big shoes to fill, but Zoldak seems cautiously optimistic about fulfilling his late friend’s vision. “We’re working really hard trying to put together a good program, but it’s difficult because we’re handicapped without Ray Goulet being available as a resource – and he was a valuable, valuable resource. He knew everybody and everybody knew him; it just made life so much easier,” he says. “It’s not that we’re at a loss to make it happen – we’re going to make it happen – but we want to keep up the standards that Ray had set, and that’s the challenge.”
It sounds like a lot of Goulet did rub off on his protege, who giddily spins his laptop around to show me the highlights of his collection via webcam. When asked about his most prized possession, Zoldak shows me a copy of a book called The Petit Sorcerer or The Conjurer Unmasked, which was published in 1803 and is one of only four known copies in existence. Zoldak knows another collector with over 10,000 magic books – roughly quadruple the size of Zoldak’s library – and he doesn’t have a copy of it. “For someone who has that extensive a library and not have a copy kind of makes it special to me,” Zoldak laughs.
His other collectible highlight is a signed copy of Houdini’s A Magician Among the Spirits. Yet Houdini is not the magician Zoldak is most intrigued by. Instead, that would be a man by the name of Henry “Box” Brown, who Zoldak has spent the last few years tirelessly researching.
It’s not that Brown was a great magician, though he may have been – it’s hard to gauge the craft of a man who died a few years shy of the 20th century – but rather he has an interesting story complete with death-defying feats of derring-do and a healthy dose of mystery.
Brown was born a slave in 1816 Virginia and managed to escape from slavery by shipping himself in a box to Philadelphia. According to Zoldak, “he wasn’t the first slave to try this, but he was the first slave to have survived the trip.” From there he went on to migrate to England where he became a civil rights speaker. That’s what he’s most known for. What’s less known about Brown is that he also performed as a magician.
“After the Civil War and the anti-slavery movement had died down a little he became a magician and was doing a magic act that involved performing magic and escapes,” Zoldak states.
“The slavery aspect of his life is pretty well documented, but nobody has documented his years as a showman,” he adds. Zoldak is still trying to sort out where Brown learned his trade as a magician. He has some hunches, from seeing which performers were in the same towns as Brown at the same time, but there’s still a lot that’s unknown about this peculiar career transition. The only piece of paraphernalia Zoldak could find related to Brown’s trade as a magician is a ticket stub that sold to somebody else at an auction for over $1,000.
Another interesting thing about Brown is that he spoke out against fraudulent spirit mediums, something Houdini became known for decades later, as psychics saw a big boom in business after World War I. There were so many bereaved looking for answers that even Houdini’s good friend and Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, bought into the frenzy of posthumous contact.
Magic historians always told Zoldak “‘at some point in time everybody finds their guy.’ That’s the guy that you want to know everything about. And you spend your life researching them and trying to piece their life together. I guess Henry ‘Box’ Brown is my guy.”
It’s that passion for a specific magician that ensnares the magic collector the most. “Ray Goulet collected things that may not have had monetary value – they may not have been a rare piece, or a one-of-a-kind kind of thing – but they belonged to a specific magician, and he liked things that were associated with specific people; magicians that he knew, magicians that he admired,” Zoldak says. “And so that put more meaning on them than the rarity of the object itself.”
Clearly Zoldak is a passionate man and he’s not alone. By his own admission, other collectors have more than quadruple his library (and that’s not including David Copperfield, who purchased a few of the biggest magic collections in the world to amass the largest stockpile by a country mile). So why isn’t this pastime catching on?
Part of this is because magic collecting isn’t a particularly popular hobby among younger generations. “The new generation of collectors is not as oriented towards physical materials. They eschew books in favor of DVDs or downloads,” Zoldak says. “The love of books is not in the next generation, so I’m not sure where all these books are going to end up, but we are hoping to start attracting more young people into the club.”
Magic collecting is also expensive – or at least it can be. (Zoldak has received four-figure offers for some of this books.) Indeed, the appeal of magic is muted in a world where the explanation of how David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear is only a few clicks away online. That said, people are still entertained by magic shows, but collecting historical artifacts in the field doesn’t have the same appeal as it once did in a pre-internet age, when trickery was a lot harder to make sense of.
That brings us to today, where magic is largely an old trade in a new world. The only other magic collectors’ conventions around are either on an indefinite hiatus or are private events held by enthusiasts who aren’t part of any official organization. “It’s sad and exciting,” Zoldak says of his new position, carrying out his dear friend’s legacy in a world where the Yankee Gathering may be the last of its kind. “It’s exciting that we’re going to be the focus,” he says. The sad part is self-explanatory.
The contemporary climate doesn’t offer the sunniest outlook for the magic collecting community, but if there’s one thing magicians know, it’s how to escape deadly situations. Of course, death itself can never be tamed, but magic performance was never about breaking the laws of nature. Instead, it’s about providing illusions that offer a sense of supernatural hope, of conquering the impossible. No one lives forever, but it’s the magician’s craft to pass on these uplifting dreams, this sense of wonder, no matter how dire things may seem. A magician can seemingly resurrect a person sawed in half, impaled by an arrow, or squished into an iron maiden. The threat of losing cultural relevance, however, is the magic collector’s greatest danger.
Every three years, the greatest magicians from all over the world gather to show off their skills and compete at FISM. The prestigious convention plays host to the “World Championship of Magic,” where illusionists from a variety of genres attempt to win the coveted Grand Prix. This year, FISM 2018 will take place in Busan, South Korea, and the organization has released a trailer promising six days of some of the most mind-blowing magic you’ll ever see.
FISM 2018 will take place between July 9 and July 14 2018 at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (also known as BEXCO), and will feature lectures, workshops, one-man shows, a dealer’s hall, and gala shows, in addition to the big competition.
Registration for the upcoming competition is still open and available for $700 USD per standard ticket. Dealer and sponsor tickets are still available as well. Visit FISM 2018’s official page for more information.
Specifics on the contents of the hosted lectures and performances are still sparse, but stay tuned to GeniiOnline as more details trickle in from the rapidly-approaching convention.
At Magi-Fest 2018, Eli Bosnick hosted a discussion called Magic & the Marketplace, which offered an opportunity to listen to five of some of the biggest names in the magic retail biz to talk shop.
The gathered panelists included Vanishing Inc. founders Andi Gladwin and Joshua Jay; Paul Richards, the founder of Elmwood Magic who is currently embarking on a new venture selling tricks that are only available at conventions; Acar Altinsel, co-founder of Penguin Magic; and Christian Schenk, creator of the Phoenix Deck.
First, they talked about “bad magic”. With the proliferation of the internet and online magic shops, how do you filter out the good magic from the bad? For Christian, it’s about giving advice to new performers, recommending specific books or decks to start with. Acar believes that there’s never been a better time to find great tricks, there’s just a lot more out there now, which can mean more crap as well. To him, the trouble is when you’re trying to stay on the cutting edge. Paul agreed with Acar, but also mentioned that because the barrier to entry is lower, anyone can make tricks now, which can be both good and bad. What’s new to him is seeing so many young people just starting out saying they want to make and release a new trick—that never happened ten or 20 years ago. Joshua believes in Sturgeon’s Law: that 90% of everything, including magic tricks, are crap. Really good magic is like finding a gem, and you have to learn how to curate what you find. Andi says that the difficulty of the magic market specifically is that so much of it is tied to its secretive nature. As one of the heads of Vanishing Inc., he sees ten-15 trick submissions a day, and rejects most of them.
Next, Eli asked if the internet was good or bad for magic. Paul sees the internet as neutral, like a tool. It’s an ocean, but magic certainly isn’t. He gave an example: the upcoming Blackpool Magic Convention is the largest gathering of magicians in the world, and attendance caps at around 4,000 people. Meanwhile, San Diego Comic-Con regularly sees over 100,000. It’s important to keep that perspective.
YouTube is also a hot-button issue in the community these days, especially since so many kids use it to learn magic. Josh says it’s just a part of the ecosystem now, which is something magicians will have to live with whether they like it or not. The important thing is that, while kids aren’t getting direct access with magic over the internet, there are live lectures and Skype sessions available that can offer similar hands-on experiences. Kids are also learning about all of the convention opportunities available thanks to the internet, and those who go get a level of access they’d never get on the internet—but without the internet, they would never have known the convention even existed.
Last, Eli asked the panel about what magicians, and retailers and trick creators specifically, can do to make magic more welcoming to women. Paul noted that a lot of tricks assume the performer has a back pocket, or wallet, or some other piece of clothing that a man would typically wear—it’s important to tailor tricks so anyone can perform them. Andi believes that we should be encouraging and promoting the women who already do magic, making them more invisible to inspire other women to begin practicing. Lastly, Acar believes that male-centric presentation and marketing is taking a back seat—these days retailers are focusing less on using tricks to “get dates” or impress women than about simple surprise or wonder.
Stay tuned to GeniiOnline for more reports from the heart of Magi-Fest 2018.
Rick Smith Jr. is the Guinness World Record holder for card throwing height, distance, and accuracy. He’s been on the talk show circuit, performed all over the world, and most recently on Dude Perfect, a YouTube channel with 26 million subscribers, in a video that reached over 52 million people.
“What does card throwing have to do with magic?” he asked the crowd at Magi-Fest 2018. “Nothing.”
But that hasn’t stopped him from using card throwing as his path toward greater success in magic. After showing off his skills to the crowd, he talked about his own career. While he’d seen some success travelling to schools to perform tricks and give speeches, he’d had trouble breaking out into the wider, increasingly over-saturated world of magic performance. It wasn’t until he discovered his own uncanny talent, almost by accident, that he decided to use it to parlay that ability into more gigs.
While the talk itself was relatively brief and generalized, it’s still incredibly useful advice for any budding illusionist. What skills or interests do you have that aren’t magic, and how can you use those to build your career and help you stand out? Do you have an encyclopedic knowledge of film? Are you a computer whiz? Can you play a wicked cover of the saxophone solo from George Michael’s Careless Whisper? Whatever skills you have, find a way to work them into your act. It’ll likely be better for it.
Stay tuned to GeniiOnline for more reports from the heart of Magi-Fest 2018.
Memorized deck tricks are absolutely impressive to pull off once you’ve got it worked out, but the amount of effort to learn even one memorization feels Herculean. At a Magi-Fest 2018 talk, David and Sarah Trustman unveiled their secret behind rapidly memorizing multiple decks of cards: the magic of psychology, mnemonics, and comics.
Before explaining their method, they brought their son out on stage and asked for a random number from a member of the audience. “37”, they shouted, and their son went to work writing down letters and numbers on a whiteboard. Meanwhile, they opened four decks of differently prepared cards, pulled out the 37th card from each deck, and their son was able to name each card from each deck with 100% accuracy.
They then explained how they were able to teach four different decks to their son in under an hour. Normally, magicians use a version of the mnemonic peg system to memorize decks. The brain, however, does its best memorization when it associates objects with images. And so, the two of them combined their knowledge of magic, mnemonics, and their work as comic book artists to craft a series of graphic novels that teach deck order through pictures.
Each page contains drawings of animals, buildings, or other objects, specifically arranged on the page in such a way to denote card order as well as type, and as you read through the story, you will also learn a full memorized deck order from front to back. The idea is that they wanted a book that could teach mnemonics so easily that even a six-year-old could memorize not just one deck, but multiple decks of cards.
Their project is called The Memory Arts, and while you can download a few of their graphic novels in ebook form through Vanishing Inc., they are also working on a physical hardcover compiling a few of their mnemonic comics into a single edition for $50.
While the book won’t be available on Vanishing Inc. for another few months, the duo had a few books available to sell at the convention. Considering how many people immediately rushed the stage as soon as their presentation was over to grab a copy, I imagine it’s going to be a pretty hot commodity once it’s officially out on physical and digital magic store shelves.
Stay tuned to GeniiOnline for more reports from the heart of Magi-Fest 2018.
Attorney and founder of internet rights law firm GigaLaw Doug Isenberg gave a talk at MagiFest 2018 today about how the current state of intellectual property law applies to a magician and how they can protect their illusions. The short answer? Magic tricks themselves are not protected by copyright, but there are still ways to protect your work.
Isenberg began his presentation by showing how the internet makes it easier than ever for magicians to have their work stolen, like how Joshua Jay’s Magic: The Complete Course can be illegally downloaded for free on document hosting services like Scribd.
Then there are cases on YouTube, where individuals take tricks other illusionists have created perform them on their own channels. One of the most famous cases was between Teller and Gerard Dogge. “Teller probably takes copyright law more seriously than anyone,” Isenberg explained, and discussed how, when the latter uploaded a video showing his version of Teller’s Shadows trick, Teller sued for copyright infringement.
Teller copyrighted the trick back in the 1980s, Isenberg said, but now it was up to the courts to decide whether the copyright actually held any weight.
According to Isenberg, Copyright protects against three main things: original works of authorship, infringement (copying or derivative works), or substantial similarity. In this case, while the judge in Teller’s case said “magic tricks are not copyrightable”, performances of that trick and aspects of that performance—such as pantomime—are. And while there was some difference between Dogge’s version of Shadows and Teller’s original work (such as the kinds of props used), the performances were “virtually indistinguishable” and as such, Dogge was found guilty of infringement.
This all comes back to the “idea-expression dichotomy”, according to Isenberg. It’s an aspect of copyright law created back in the late 1800s that states that copyright doesn’t protect ideas (which anyone can have) but rather expressions of that idea.
Teller’s victory, however, came at a price: while Teller was able to recoup about $500,000 in damages and legal fees, he still ended up losing around $400,000 due to the cost of taking the case to court. A Pyrrhic victory, but one that helped set precedent to help prevent future imitators.
There are other ways to protect one’s work, whether through non-disclosure agreements, patents, or trademarks, but they’re either impractical, time-consuming to attain, or expensive. Copyright seems like the easiest and best option for protection, and while not perfect, will help you in the long run.
So what can you do to make sure infringement doesn’t happen to you or your colleagues? Isenberg closed with the three R’s: register your copyright by filling out a form online and paying a nominal $35 fee, report violations that you see (sites like YouTube have simple automated forms you can fill out to make a Digital Millennium Copyright Act claim), and respect other magicians’ work.
Stay tuned to GeniiOnline for more reports from the heart of Magi-Fest 2018.
Did you get to go to The Session in London earlier this month? If you did, I’m very jealous. If you didn’t, you can start living it vicariously. We’re starting to see some videos from attendees of the event, put on by Vanishing Inc., posted to YouTube.
One such showreel comes from Arnulfur Hakonarson, a magician out of Iceland. He recorded a lovely video of his time in the UK. That clip at the top features the card tricks of Karan Singh.
James Grossman Magic has a longer video up with some highlights from his time at the convention. Sadly the video description doesn’t have the names of all performers, but fortunately many of them are wearing prominent name badges if you want to further investigate the practitioners of your favorite bits.
And remember, this weekend has two other magic conventions for you stateside readers. Vanishing Inc is getting right back in the saddle with MagiFest, happening in Columbus from January 25-27. (GeniiOnline will be there, come give us a shout!) Or if you’re more coastal, drop by the shows happening as part of the Fog City Magic Fest in San Francisco.